MG membership

swampbuck(z8 AL)October 24, 2008

Anyone here have any ideas for keeping a MG chapter active. We have a good many members, but unfortunately not many of them want to do anything except attend meetings, and generally even then they start fidgeting after 30 minutes. They are a good group of people, but they just don't want to do anything that will help our chapter grow and puts us in a Catch 22. It is basically the same 10 percent doing everything.(That applies to all organizations too. My choice is to either leave the group for another one or come up with some way to get in more active members.

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I'm sorry to hear you've got such a laid back group, Swampbuck. Up here in coastal NJ we have a very active group.

How about some things that might resonate with current issues?

1. Each of our classes takes on the PAR Garden (Plant-a-Row for the Hungry). With some mentoring from veteran MGs they always seem to set a new record in produce donated to the local food pantry ... which, in these times, has seen a siginicant rise in requests from diverse groups.

2. Rain gardens are really catching on here, and requests are coming in from all quarters (municipalities, schools, etc.) for assistance with building these important rain catchment systems. Apparently there is grant money our there, too, to help.

3. The Speakers Bureau has been very active - an excellent way of fulfilling our educational mission, and it brings in a few dollars in donations as well.

4. Our Spring Garden Day, which is essentially a plant sale and educational event, is successful, but a lot of work. Gardeners always seem to love to "share the wealth", though, so how about starting with a MG-run plant swap that is open to the public. Should require much less investment in time, energy and money.

Bottom line, you're going to have to find something that tickles their fancy (whatever that may be) enough to get overcome the inertia and get involved. I assume you're already sought advice from your county coordinator or extension agent, or fellow MGs in you state?

I can't speak highly enough of the various opportunities and joys of being a part of our Monmouth County Master Garder Association, so wish you success in revitalizing your group!

P.S. We do make use of significant quantities of good food.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2008 at 3:57PM
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swampbuck(z8 AL)

Thanks so much for your suggestions. I did not mean to imply that we are "do nothing" group. We have a number of projects including a vegetable garden that provides food for the elderly and low-income, a gardening program for prison inmates,a gardening question line and a dozen other projects. Our main problem is that one or two people do these projects without any assistance. It may be we are too scattered. I think at this point I will stand back and see if I get a better vantage point on things that can be done to increase participation. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 2:01PM
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If only a couple of people are actually participating in the projects, how do the rest of the MGs get their volunteer hours? Most (if not all) extensions require a minimum number of hours in service each year along with continuing education hours to maintain the MG status. In our county we must give at least 20 hours a year and take 8 hours of classes. Many of our volunteers give many more hours than that.

How long have you been in your group? Have you discussed this with your extension agent or MG coordinator? Maybe there is more actual participation than you realize. If you do "stand back" for awhile and still feel that there's somthing lacking, bring it up in a meeting. I know that I see the same faces a lot when I volunteer but it's because the same people usually do the same type of work most of the time and others are doing something else.

Good luck with your group. I hope things work out well for you.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 2:59PM
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tommie_jo(z8b TX)

It's a confounding task trying to reach MGs who completed the training, were certified, joined the association but don't participate in the activities/projects that support Extension's goals of public service and education. We have the very same problem. What we've never done is to
ask them why they're not active (in the form of a study); perhaps they just wanted the education, like the title of Certified Master Gardener but just wanted to be in a "garden club" setting for the social aspect. On the other hand we have yet to "de-certify" anyone or establish an "auxiliary" membership class.

We have a Yahoo group (private, by invitation only) set up to communicate with the membership so every volunteer and educational opportunity is broadcast and announcements are made at the monthly meetings.

Every state/county faces the same challenge - bless those who volunteer and good luck to us all!

T.J. - Texas Master Gardener

    Bookmark   November 2, 2008 at 3:28PM
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We do much the same as gardenstateof_mind, Also bring up to the group if there is interest in maintaining flower beds at your city parks. Also we have a seed swap and plant exchange twice a year. We have speakers from the local college and we get the newspaper and radio stations to plug our group. Along with a monthly news letter there's no way some feels left out.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2008 at 4:42PM
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tommie_jo said "What we've never done is to
ask them why they're not active (in the form of a study)"

For what it's worth I'll give you my story. Back in 1991 I had been a gardener for 30 years. It had got to where I never seemed to find a book with info I had not already seen. The ad in the newspaper said Master Gardener Course. Does not master gardener imply advanced gardening? I had visions of serious botany classes with microscopes, the real science you don't find in the flashy supermarket garden mags. Followed with volunteer work with the county agent. What would that be? Maybe taking soil and plant samples to bring back to the lab? Performing field tests? I think it was a case of reading the newspaper ad and seeing what I wanted to see. I signed up.

The reality was something else. Out of the 25 classmates only one other person had more than 2 years of garden experience. For all the beginners they taught gardening 101. I should have offered to teach rather than be a student. So what, it's not the first time I've wasted my money, there was still learning to be had helping the agent. No. That didn't pan out either. As Master Gardeners we were not to give any specific garden advice at any time. Volunteering was to be filing, answering the phone, and giving out pamphlets. Being a unpaid secretary was not what I had in mind.

I think I finally did complete my volunteer work, but I took my time doing it. I have never called myself a MG, and never will. Next year will be my 50th year in the garden and there is still new stuff to learn. I look forward to it.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2008 at 8:13PM
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ksfarmer(z5/Ks NC Kansas)

pls88xx: I'm sorry your experience with the Master Gardener program was so dissapointing. It doesn't sound anything like what I experienced here in Kansas. Like you I have been in the garden for a long time (60+ years). I also have a BS in Biology and I have been a full-time farmer for 38 years. I took our MG class because I am retiring now and intend to spend more time in the garden and landscaping. I didn't expect a 12 week class in Botany, even tho most of the classes were taught by teachers at Kansas State University in subjects like soil science, pathology, turf science, entomology, and so on. I think I gained a lot of practical knowledge and learned who to contact at our state university to find answers to problems. In contrast to you, we are encouraged to help solve gardening problems for the public thru programs like our "Ask the Master Gardener" booth at farmers markets and county fairs and garden shows. The county agents here are more ag oriented and welcome our help in the garden and landscape areas.
Not everyone who takes the class is as active in volunteering as others are. We have some very hard workers who make things happen, we also have the "idea" people who think up projects but aren't as likely to get their hands dirty. It takes all kinds. I think that is what makes a successful club,, a well balanced mix. Not everyone is interested in the same projects, so you need a variety. Besides the information booth, we have a beautify your town project, which works with individuals in our small communities to put in planters and such in their town. We work with the highschool FFA students, they start bedding plants for us in their greenhouse, we provide seed, they grow, we take what we need and they have a sale for the surplus. Works great. Anywhy, I am having a great time and feel the secret to a good club is variety, to get everyone involved.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 6:40PM
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My experience was a long time ago and things may be different now. Any disappointment was my own fault for not asking more questions before signing up. And I did understand why they would not want new MGs with 50 hours of class to be giving gardening advice. But expecting someone with decades of garden experience and a love of gardening to keep their mouth shut isn't going to work either.

Maybe the program would work better if it was split into MG apprentice for beginning gardeners and MG only for those qualified through testing.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 5:25PM
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swampbuck(z8 AL)

Thanks everyone for their suggestions and comments. I think it is something that bears ongoing discussion by all means. While MG classes are basically a primer our state organization is now offering more advanced and intense courses. I value the organization because most members have a specialty they can share with you.
I think too, from my perspective, Master Gardener is a misnomer with negative consequences. In this area, I believe a lot of people do not take the classes because they have the impression they will be sitting among people with PhD, and frankly I believe a lot of members like people having that perception. Truth is I am dumb as a stick about house plants, but fairly familiar with native plants.
One new venture for us this year - with the state of the economy - is to teach people the fundamentals of vegetable gardening (I hate thinking we ever got away from that essential.)
Whatever, let's venture into the new year with plans to make our chapters the best possible. Y'all take care.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2008 at 7:33PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Most who volunteer to take the course and become Master Gardeners, do so to learn more about gardening. It is the thrill of learning that will keep them active. Each group needs to offer advanced learning opportunities to keep the learning alive. Going to meetings for the social exchange without any educational component will soon get boring for most of us. Field trips with experts in their field instead of meetings where we talk about the calendar would keep a lot more members active. Al

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 10:25AM
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